Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
XVIII: The Aftermath of the Crusades, pp. [unnumbered]-666 PDF (7.8 MB)
Ch. XVIII THE AFTERMATH OF THE CRUSADES 657 With the failure of the Hungarian crusade, the imperial city was virtually abandoned to its fate.13 Even the ruling class within its walls recognized in some way or other the suzerainty of the sultans. When John VIII died in 1448, his brothers Constantine and Demetri us disputed the succession to the imperial throne; the sultan ap proved the selection of Constantine Dragases as emperor. On Murad's death in 1451, his son and successor Mehmed 11(1451—1481) was destined to obliterate the last traces of the eastern Roman empire within the next two years. The downfall of Constantinople, long foreseen by its contempo raries, was deferred by the Turks only until they had completed all their preparations. On the Byzantine side, the position of the city was worse than ever. It was impoverished and depopulated. Wl1ole districts were in ruins, and the population in those latter days was estimated at 45,000—50,000. The walls built by Theodosius II, and constantly repaired, nevertheless betrayed signs of old age and debil ity in several places. The emperor became unpopular with his sub jects since he, like his immediate predecessors, declared union with the Roman see in the church of Hagia Sophia, in the hope that the west might come to his relief. The fury of the Greeks found a strong leader in the person of their future patriarch Gennadius, alias George Scholarius, a monk of the convent of the Pantocrator. Certain members of the community, like Lucas Notaras, a high dignitary and admiral of the fleet, went so far as to say that they would rather see the Turkish turban than the papal tiara in Constantinople. Constan tine's army of defense could not have exceeded 8,000 for the whole length of the immense walls. Of these, the Chronicon maius, falsely attributed to the Greek chronicler Sphrantzes, tells us, 4,973 were Byzantine soldiers, while the rest were Genoese and foreign volun teers and mercenaries. Their war materiel was continuously depleted without hope of any substantial help from outside. On the Turkish side, the picture was totally different. Although Mehmed II was only nineteen on his accession to the throne, he had already gained considerable experience in both civil and military administration during his father's reign. Since 1444, he had either ruled alone or shared the affairs of state with the old sultan. It was obvious from the beginning that he had set his mind wholly on the capture of Constantinople. To ensure a free passage for his troops from Asia to Europe, he constructed in 1452 a great fortress (Rumeli 13. On the last years of Constantinople see above, pp. 101—103, and Steven Runciman,The Fall of Constantinople, 1453 (Cambridge, 1965).
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